– Entertainment/Activity Centers –
Photo by Ken Gabrielsen
With Westchester locations in Mount Kisco and Yonkers, Rockin’ Jump trampoline park is the perfect place for your kids (and you, if so inclined) to work it out. Whether they choose jump on the trampolines, play dodge ball, tug of war, or scale the climbing wall, your children will leave tired and happy.
It’s also a can’t-go-wrong venue for parties and a great place to spend a rainy day.
A mega-entertainment center in Mount Kisco (next door to Rockin’ Jump), Grand Prix offers something for every age. Teens and grown-ups can get their race on and hit the go-kart track, and the young ones (and grown-ups) can play both new and old-school arcade games and accumulate tickets to redeem for prizes. If bowling is your thing, Spins Bowl resides within the complex and features 12 family lanes.
You’ll likely get hungry with all this entertainment, so take a time-out and grab a bite at Fuel, a restaurant/bar within the complex that offers anything from tacos and pizza to burgers and hot dogs (the smoked gouda mac ‘n’ cheese is a palate pleaser).
At 40,000 square feet, Spins Hudson is the largest entertainment center on the Hudson. Located inside Factoria at Charles Point in Peekskill, Spins Hudson offers a host of spectacular adventure that only a venue of its size can, including its centerpiece — the sole indoor/outdoor aerial ropes course in the Northeast.
But that’s not all, folks: Spins Hudson boasts a two-story laser tag arena, rock climbing, shuffleboard, a redemption arcade with over fifty games, a brewery and restaurant, and all with a magnificent view of the Hudson.
Kids climbing up the walls? Take them to The Cliffs At Valhalla, where they can literally do just that. With 13,000 feet of climbing, 40-ft. walls to scale and tons of climbs for all ages and all levels of experience (including none whatsoever), your kid can climb to the moon and back.
Choose from three types of climbing: Bouldering, Toprope Climbing, and Lead Climbing, the latter two requiring an introductory class, which is offered onsite. The Cliffs offers birthday parties for 6-year-olds and up, youth programs and a winter break camp.
You will likely find whatever amuses you and your kids at Sportime USA, a mega indoor-amusement center in Elmsford. Features include an arcade, laser tag, bumper cars, billiard tables, indoor playground, rides, and something you aren’t going to find in other indoor entertainment centers — batting cages.
While one could argue that Sportime USA is a bit dated and could use an upgrade, it still delivers, and your children are sure to enjoy themselves.
– Parks/Nature Centers –
Lasdon Park & Arboretum
Open seven days a week year-round (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), the 235-acre Lasdon Park has much to offer. If you have kids in the single-digit age range, the biannual train shows — Halloween and Christmastime — are simply not to be missed.
During Halloween the main house becomes a haunted one and the set that the trains ride through is ghostly (think cemeteries and witches), while the trains during the Holiday on the Hill Train Show cruise through a winter wonderland.
Some permanent features of Lasdon include the Arboretum, which consists of 30 acres of flora and fauna from all over the world, stunning formal gardens, and glass conservatory housing rare plants. A recent addition is the dinosaur trail, which is a charming path in the woods lined with, well, dinosaurs.
Purchased by the county in 1938, the 4,315-acre Ward Pound Ridge Reservation is the largest park in Westchester. The name Pound Ridge originated from Native Americans who used to live in the area, and “Ward” is the name of county leader William Lukens Ward, who held court at the turn of the 20th century.
Open year-round, the reservation offers seasonal activities including camping, fishing, skiing, and the family-favorite Annual Firefly Festival, held on a July evening, during which you and your kids can catch fireflies (nets supplied) and release them. Bring chairs or a blanket, a bottle of wine, and kick back and watch the night illumine.
While on the smaller side with 126 acres, Gedney Park has pretty much everything a bigger park has, but on a manageable scale. The lake in the center is full of fish and ducks (a turtle sighting is all but guaranteed) and fishing is permitted. There are several nature trails, fantastic slopes for winter sledding, and a recently renovated, top-notch playground.
Walk or bike along a brook to the far side of the park, where you will find a soccer field, baseball diamond, picnic tables and grills. Oh, and dog-owners rejoice! There is an off-leash area where your pups can romp until their heart’s delight, and during designated times your four-footed pals can go leash-free on hikes and swim in the lake.
With its mission to “inspire our community to lifelong environmental stewardship,” the 1,000-acre nature reserve offers year-round programs and events, 15 miles of hiking trails, and is home to the breathtaking Wildlower Island, a two-acre sanctuary with over 250 species of wildflowers, trees and shrubs.
Teatown also hosts the spectacular Teatown Hudson River EagleFest at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. The annual February festival celebrates the return of this majestic bird to the Hudson Valley, with live birds-of-prey shows, educators with viewing scopes to observe wild eagles gliding over the Hudson, food trucks, and heated tents filled with 25+ environmental organizations offering information, products for sale, freebies, and kids’ activities.
Photo by Stefan Radtke
Who would think that right off of Central Avenue in lower Westchester you could find 33 pristine acres of nature reserve? Well, you can.
Greenburgh Nature Center is truly a jewel. Worthy of many return visits, the center has both indoor and outdoor attractions sure to please kids and grown-ups of any age. Roam the serene woodlands and hiking trails, play on the one-of-a-kind playground set in the heart of the forest, explore a replica Native American village, hang with the butterflies in Butterfly Arbor (summer only) and then head inside the Manor House and get up-close and personal with the center’s impressive collection of exotic and native live animals.
There are programs and events year-round, including guided walks through the center’s woodland forest and the self-explanatory “Feeding Fun.”
A place like no other, the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem guarantees an extraordinary and unique experience for visitors. The Center’s mission is to educate people about wolves’s relationship to the environment and how people can help to protect their future, and it offers year-round programs and events for all ages.
When you visit the Center (pre-registration required; no drop-ins) you will learn a great deal about wolves, with particular emphasis on the critically endangered species, and you will get to observe the center’s three “ambassador wolves,” Alawa, Zephyr, and Nikai. While you shouldn’t expect to dance with the wolves, you can sleep with them! The Center’s “Sleeping with Wolves” program allows participants to camp overnight with more than 20 wolves in their own habitat. Howl cool is that?
A Westchester gem, Muscoot Farm truly delivers. Per its mission statement, Muscoot aims to “preserve and interpret, for the public benefit, the agricultural, cultural and natural heritage of a Westchester county farm, circa 1880 – 1930.”
Many of the original buildings still stand, and you can explore them all. There are seasonal activities, including a world-class farmers market from spring through the fall, craft fairs, bird-watching hikes and Christmas caroling, and the seven miles of trails provide hiking and nature walks year-round.
And the animals! Sheep, goats, horses, cows, turkeys, pigs (really big ones), chickens, and if you are lucky, you might see some babies (baby animals, that is). If you go in the summer, be sure to get some ice cream at the iconic King Kone, which is all of a mile or two up Route 35, where it has stood for over 60 years.
– Shops –
Books and bunnies! How can you go wrong with this winning combination? This family-owned, independent bookstore in Chappaqua has a great selection of children’s books for all reading levels, unique gifts and a decent, albeit small, selection of adult-reads. Bunnies!
Scattered also offers periodic author signings and themed birthday parties Oh, did I mention bunnies? Cute, fluffy bunnies? Resident rabbits Acorn and Oatmeal are sure to warm the hardest of hearts.
Part coffee shop, part newsstand, part gift shop, part ice-cream parlor, mostly bookstore, Little Joe’s, situated across the street from the Katonah train station, is a popular spot for commuters and little readers alike.
Pop in and grab yourself a strong cup o’ joe and a newspaper or head up the stairs lined with little toys and gifts with your kiddos and explore the packed shelves of books for all reading levels on the second floor. While Joe’s is mostly kids’ books, it carries a small selection of adult books as well, including cookbooks, non-fiction, and bestsellers.
Photo by Doug Schneider
If you find yourself in Ossining or are looking for a reason to visit, be sure to check out Penny & Ting, a charming toy and gift shop right on Main Street. Here you will find a wonderful array of thoughtfully curated toys, puzzles, books, stuffed animals, and crafts, all handpicked by the store’s owner, Mary Howard, who worked as an educator for 25 years before opening up shop. The store’s mission is to “look to provide toys that support family time, childhood development, aesthetics, design, and most importantly, joy,” and it delivers in spades.
The store offers a wide range of items, including top-brand items and old-fashioned toys sure to take you back to your own childhood (marbles, anyone? How about a tin Grand Prix Racer?). Do yourself a favor — take a break from online shopping and pay Penny & Ting a visit: both your inner-child and real children will thank you.
Who doesn’t love a day at the mall? The Westchester has got everything for the perfect mall experience for everyone in your family. With over 150 stores and eateries, it is hard to imagine something you won’t find here.
Kids are well-covered with Build-A-Bear, LEGO Store, Claire’s, Justice, Newbury Comics and a great play area, and grown-ups will find pretty much every high-end, name-brand retailer all under one roof, including (but hardly limited to) Banana Republic, Coach, Apple, Crate & Barrel, Foot Locker, Gucci, J. Crew, and even Tesla, if you’re looking to swap the horse you came in on. Even the most fickle eaters (your kids) will find something to satiate their appetites, whether it be something melty (Melt Shop) or something melty (Haagen-Dazs).
– Crafts –
Sick of cleaning glue, baking soda, shaving cream, and contact-lens solution from every surface of your house? Or perhaps you’re sick of rinsing out, if not throwing away every mixing bowl in your kitchen.
Well, two Westchester moms have come to the rescue and opened D.I.Y. Slime in Larchmont. With 40 different types of slime and pretty much everything your little goo-addicts might want to mix into it, D.I.Y. has got you covered. Check their website for drop-in hours or plan a party and put those scrubbing days (and slime-induced rage) behind you.
If you and your brood are in a crafty mood, head on over to The Pottery Factory in Mount Kisco. Walk in anytime (during business hours) and choose from a number of craft activities, including painting your own pottery, candle-making, glass fusing (I had to look it up, too), and soap-making, so you can conveniently wash all the paint off the kids with soap they’ve made themselves. And keep an eye out for periodic events like sock-gnome workshops and Princess Pottery breakfasts with the Snow Queen herself.
– Museums/Performance Venues –
Often flying just under the radar, the Hudson River Museum is a wonderful, multifaceted institution with points of interest for all ages.
The museum houses the Andrus Planetarium, the only public planetarium in Westchester, which offers shows every Saturday and Sunday year-round (be sure to check the schedule before heading over as each time-slotted show is designed for a different age bracket), and the Hudson Riverama, a hands-on, interactive, multimedia educational gallery that will teach you and your kids just about everything about the coolest river in the world (no bias here).
Tour the art galleries, where you will see stunning paintings from the famed Hudson River School, and spend some time browsing the shelves of “The Bookstore,” a permanent life-sized art installation created by iconic artist Red Grooms. If old houses are your thing, tour the Glenview Mansion, an 1877 estate with a half-dozen rooms featuring period furniture and decor.
Be sure to periodically check the calendar of events at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase, a world-class, four-theater complex on the SUNY Purchase campus. With dance, music and theater events all year-round, there is no shortage of opportunities to introduce your children to the world of performing arts.
Witness Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar come to life through fantastical puppetry and black light, or relive your own childhood through the eyes of your kids with the latest offering from MUMMENSCHANZ (yes, that MUMMENSCHANZ).
Photo by Peter T. Michaelis
Since recently undergoing a major renovation, the Bedford Playhouse has emerged as a go-to venue for film, music and community events. The Playhouse contains three theaters, which offer screenings of first-run movies, classics and family-oriented films, as well as frequent events like concerts, author-readings and speaker engagements featuring celebrities and cultural figures.
Considering the largest donor for the renovation is music legend Clive Davis, the theaters are equipped with state-of-the-art sound and projection equipment, ensuring an immersive and unparalleled cinema experience. If your kids are budding film buffs, consider renting a theater for a birthday party.